Half way report card

January 19, 2017   ·   0 Comments

We are now officially at the half-way point of Orangeville Council’s current mandate. As such, I thought it might be appropriate to review promises and progress that has been made. This week I will review the Mayor and in future submissions I will provide commentary on how different council members have performed.

The last-minute pledge to keep any tax increases at “zero percent” was the key to winning the election for Jeremy Williams. Mayor Williams created the Zero Pledge platform, stating “for Orangeville’s upcoming 2015 budget I am pledging, I will only vote to pass a budget that does not exceed a zero percent increase.”  The promise was strategically released on October 17th 2014, via social media.

So how has the “Zero Pledge” turned out? In 2015, Mayor Williams voted in favour of a 2.4% increase, which ended up being the largest town tax levy increase since 2010. The reality is that he also voted in favour of the 2016 budget increase of 1.6% and the 2017 increase of 3.5%. Of interest, there was some odd positioning by the Mayor in which he tried to convince residents that the 2017 increase was actually zero percent. This can in fact be true; you simply have to ignore the extra $95/year taxpayers are now obligated to pay.

In 2014, the Orangeville Police were certainly under strain and scrutiny due to a variety of significant issues that had occurred. To his credit, Mayor Williams overtly shared these issues in a public forum. He also openly advocated during the last election that the town should pursue costing options from the Ontario Provincial Police. “I’m hopeful that we can work with OPS, but I’ll keep an open mind to exploring other options.” I personally predict OPP costing will be significantly lower than our current service. ($1 million less annually). Council will need to decide how much they value the strong work put forth by Chief Kalinski and team when they make their decision.

Today, Mayor Williams’ time on the Police Services Board (PSB) has been overshadowed by what can only be called puzzling decision-making on his part.  The Mayor was removed as Chair of the PSB due to the investigations into his town credit card expenses. In addition, the Mayor’s poor attendance to meetings caused him to be removed from the negotiating committee. At the July 19th PSB meeting member Anne Welwood put forth the following motion: “Given that the Mayor has missed the last four out of five negotiation meetings, and given the importance of contract negotiations being carried forward with a full committee without delay, the Mayor be removed from the Negotiating Committee.” As I write this, I understand that Mayor Williams will ask to have his Chair duties reinstated. The truth is that the Mayor’s leadership style is not supported by the board, and he will most likely not have the required support to once again be chair.

I still wonder about the infamous China trip that the Mayor took early in late 2015. The ill-fated journey was not supported by either Dufferin County or Orangeville council. The Mayor’s expenses were denied by both governments and he ended up having to self-fund the trip. There was talk of forging a “sister relationship” with a city in China, but none of these areas have really come to fruition. Ultimately, it was much ado about nothing and cost him politically and financially.

To me, any time an elected official is investigated for potentially criminal acts, alarm bells should go off. All of us now know that the Peel Police did not pursue any charges against the Mayor for improper use of his expense accounts. Personally, I was relieved that this sorry chapter in Orangeville’s history is closed. Quite simply, there is no benefit to the town to have its mayor charged criminally. Our reputation within Ontario would have been damaged for quite some time. I think the legal reports released by the CAO aptly prove that Mayor Williams does not consistently act with sound reasoning and judgment.

Other platform promises include: the possibility of merging Dufferin county’s eight municipalities into one level of government (no action); build Bravery Park (almost there!); solve the Humber Lands (work in progress); build a second dog park (no action); bring in new business (work in progress); town signage showing key attractions (complete, and a great addition to the town!); Transit Improvement (progressing nicely!), Diane Drive Sports Park (progressing).

Personally, I crave professionalism, critical thinking and leadership from our elected officials. The last meeting of 2016, in which the Mayor left the building in an awkward fashion, leaving the rest of council to wonder what to do next, summarizes the strange actions of our leader. In my view, the direction of Jeremy Williams thus far has been confusing and at times embarrassing. We can all hope the next two years will offer improvement, but typically past actions are the best judge of the future’s reality.

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